Possible Causes and Home Remedies for Dry Skin Around Your Eyes
Dry skin around your eyes can be uncomfortable and irritating, not to mention embarrassing.
When untreated, this condition can make you look older than you really are and negatively affect your self-image, making you feel less attractive and confident.
In most cases, dryness around the eyes can be treated at home with some simple lifestyle changes. In other cases, however, you may end up needing to see a professional.
Here are some of the most common causes of eye-area dryness and what needs to be done in order to treat them.
Most Common Causes of Dry Skin Around the Eyes
Weather and climate
Dry air is your skin's enemy. Artificial heating and cooling can dry out the air, and cold weather can also strip the air of moisture
Use a humidifier, moisturize properly (see details below), and wear proper clothing to protect your skin from the elements.
Using harsh products on your body
This includes your makeup as well as soaps and moisturizers for your face and hair or detergents and fabric softeners that get on your clothes
Switch to hypo-allergenic and gentle facial products and moisturizers, and make sure your hair products and detergents are also gentle.
Using hot water to wash your face or washing your face too frequently
Hot water strips your skin of moisture
Wash with lukewarm water only one or few times a day. Use only your hands and water to wash. Exfoliate no more than once a week.
Some medications, such as those for acne and high blood pressure, can cause dry skin
Talk to your doctor if you've noticed a change in your skin health since you started a new prescription.
Underlying health conditions
Eczema, periroral dermatitis, sebbhorreic dermatitis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism can all cause dry skin, or skin that looks dry, on your face
See your doctor.
What Is Dry Skin?
Healthy skin is coated in a fine layer of lipids (fatty substances) that keep moisture in and help the skin feel soft.1 Dry skin happens when something strips away this layer of oil and leaves your skin exposed. Normally dry skin is caused by the environment you're in or something that you're doing, though it could also be caused by an underlying medical condition.
The skin around your eyes is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on other parts of your body, making it especially vulnerable.2
According to HealthLine, you're more likely to develop dry skin if:3
- You're an older adult
- You live in a dry climate
- You take hot, prolonged showers or baths
- You or your family has a history of eczema or allergic contact dermatitis
Dry skin itself is not particularly dangerous, though it can be annoying and unsightly. Problems can develop, however, if dry skin is chronic or when it leads to itchiness or the development of fissures, since both of these could introduce bacteria and cause infection.1
Common Causes of Dry Skin Around the Eyes and Ways to Treat Them
Here's an in-depth look at some things that might be causing your condition.
1. Dry Climate
Dry air is an enemy of the skin and is one of the causes of seasonal dryness.1 In the winter, cold air retains very little moisture. Similarly, artificial heat and cooling can also dry out the air, leading to parched skin. Here are some changes that you can make to help solve this problem.
Get a Humidifier
If you live in an area that is arid or regularly very cold, it may be a good idea to invest in a humidifier.2
Regularly using a humidifier diffuses enough moisture in the environment to prevent skin from drying out too fast.
A humidifier is also a natural aid to chronic dry throat, cracked lips, irritated vocal chords, and problematic sinuses.
Most people make the mistake of moisturizing when their skin feels dry, but in reality, you should moisturize right after you take a shower, when your skin is damp since moisturizer works by trapping water in your skin.1
You should also use a moisturizer that is specifically formulated for the face, gentle and fragrance-free, and thick enough to actually trap moisture. According to HealthLine, petrolatum-based products are the best choice for dry or cracked skin.4
It's best to choose a moisturizer that also has a sunscreen in it so you can limit the amount of exposure you have to UV rays, which can damage the skin and cause premature aging.
Use gentle strokes when applying the moisturizer to your face as your eye skin is delicate and sensitive.
Though there aren't many scientific studies regarding their effectiveness, many people swear by using home-made moisturizers made from avocado, coconut oil, or oatmeal.5 Use caution when attempting to make a home-made facial product and take careful notice of how your body reacts. In general, this is a good practice for any product you're using on your body.
Bundle Up in the Winter
Minimize the amount of time you are exposed to the cold air and always wear protective clothing when you do. You might look a little silly wearing a face mask and goggles in the extreme cold, but your skin will thank you! You could also use a scarf to cover your face, but make sure it's a soft fabric that doesn't irritate your skin and that you wash it with a gentle detergent.
Turn Down the Heat (or the AC)
If you can, avoid climate-conditioning your living space to the extreme, and wear appropriate clothing at work as well to protect your skin since you might not have control over the thermostat.1 For some, this may mean wearing a cardigan in the summertime because offices tend to be over-cooled.
2. Use of Harsh Facial Products
Regularly using or overusing facial cleansers and other skin products (e.g. facial scrubs with micro-beads, deep cleansers, etc.) that contain harsh chemicals can result in dryness.1 The shampoo you use may affect your face as well, since it can run down from your hair.
Your skin can also be worn out from applying and wearing makeup. For example, applying concealer to hide dark skin under the eyes, wearing eyeliner and/or mascara, and using dirty brushes that contain accumulated bacteria are all stressful to the skin.
Here's how to troubleshoot this issue.
Give Your Skin a Break From Wearing Eye Makeup
- As much as possible, skip the eyeliner and mascara.
- If you must wear makeup, choose brands that are hypoallergenic and recommended or tested by dermatologists. Skin experts recommend that you choose creams rather than powders when it comes to eye shadows.
- Be sure to test the makeup before you buy it. Do a skin-patch test whenever possible to see how your skin responds to it.
- Opt for light makeup on most days and only wear heavy makeup on special occasions.
- Choose at least one whole day per week to go makeup-free.
- Wash your face and remove your makeup before going to sleep to limit your exposure to it.
- When exercising, doing strenuous physical work, or working long hours outdoors or under the sun, it is best if you go makeup-free. Heat and sweat will not only dissolve your makeup faster, but also clog pores near and around your eyes.
- You are also more vulnerable to environmental pollution if working outside. You should wash your face after being exposed to pollution — use warm water and a very mild, fragrance-free soap.
Stop Using Harsh Products on Your Face
Change to a fragrance-free, gentle face wash and only use hypoallergenic and fragrance-free lotions and moisturizers.
It's best to choose a very mild soap. Look for ones with these ingredients, which are mild on the skin:4
- Polyethylene glycol
- Silicone surfactants
Ingredients to avoid include:4
- Alpha hydroxy acids
Reduce How Frequently You Wash and Exfoliate Your Face
You shouldn't wash your face more than twice a day (once if you can manage it), and don't exfoliate more than once a week.2
When you wash, you should only use room-temperature or lukewarm water and your hands— ditch the loofahs and washcloths.1 Use gentle strokes as well to avoid stressing your sensitive facial skin.
3. Using Hot Water to Wash Your Face or Taking Long Showers or Baths
Even though it might feel good to take a long, hot shower, water strips the skin of its layer of protective oils and can leave you feeling dried out even after a long soak.1
The answer to this one is pretty simple, as you might be able to imagine.
Wash Your Face With Warm, Not Hot Water
- Use warm water when you wash your face, and avoid washing it too frequently.
- Don't let the shower head blast you with hot water, either (even though it might feel good!).
- Limit your shower time to between five and ten minutes, or shower every other day if possible.4
- When you towel your face off, gently pat your face instead of rubbing — it's gentler on the skin.1
According to WebMD,1 there are some medications that can cause your skin to be abnormally dry. These include drugs for:
- High blood pressure, such as diuretics
- Acne and other skin conditions, such as retinoids
Talk to Your Doctor
If your dry skin started after you began a new kind of prescription, you should talk to your doctor and see if you can either change medications or modify the dosage to reduce the side effects.
Underlying Disorders That May Cause Dry Skin Around Your Eyes
If you try the above habit and lifestyle changes and find that you're still suffering from dry skin, you may have an underlying condition of some kind. These are some of the most common.
Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis), is a condition that can make your skin red and itchy.6 It tends to be a chronic condition that occasionally flares up and then goes away. It doesn't have a cure, but there are many things that you can do to manage your symptoms.
Eczema can occur on the areas surrounding your eyes, including your eyelids. In addition to dryness, eczema causes the skin to become scaly. In more extreme cases, this causes cracking, itching, reddening, and swelling.
Symptoms of eczema around your eyes include:6
- Red to brownish gray patches
- Small, raised bumps which may leak fluid and crust over if scratched
- Thickened, dry, scaly skin
- Raw or sensitive skin from scratching
Things that make eczema worse include:
- Presence of dry skin from other factors
- Dust, pollution, tobacco, and other irritants in the air
- Detergents and skin care products
If you've been having severe, persistent itching, you should see a dermatologist. They may prescribe you different kinds of medication to help control the itching and the dryness as well as repair the skin.
For treating at home, you should see the best practices above for managing dry skin, including using a humidifier, switching to gentle hygiene products and detergents, clothes with fabrics that don't irritate the skin, and moisturizers and creams formulated for sensitive skin.
You should try to avoid activities that cause excessive sweating, as this can cause flare-ups, and you should also avoid scratching the eczema as much as possible.7
2. Perioral Dermatitis
Perioral dermatitis is a rash that usually appears around the mouth, though it can also spread to the nose and eyes.8 Though it is not known exactly what causes this rash, studies suggest it may have something to do with the use of topical steroids and certain cosmetic products.
According to HealthLine, it usually appears as rash of red bumps in the folds around the mouth, the nose, under the eyes, or on the forehead or chin. The bumps can have a scaly appearance.
This condition does not cause dry skin, though its symptoms may be mistaken for a case of dry skin.
This is often a chronic condition that is mostly seen in women.
You should see your doctor if you've had a persistent rash on your face. They will be able to diagnose you and may prescribe medication for you to help treat the condition.
There are some things you can do at home, however, such as:8
- Avoid using scented soap and facial cleanser that can irritate your skin, especially around the eyes. Wash your face with nothing but warm water.
- Take a break from wearing makeup, or at least your eye makeup. Stop using face creams, including sunscreen in lotion form. Use a liquid or gel instead.
- Discontinue the use of any topical steroids or nasal sprays — even ones that you can purchase over the counter.
- Wash your pillowcases frequently in hot water.
3. Sebbhorreic Dermatitis
This condition is also known as dandruff, and you might not have known that you can get it on your face, where it's usually found on your eyelids.9
Its symptoms include a red, itchy rash that is usually accompanied with flaking of pieces of skin that could look white or yellow and oily.
If you've been experiencing problems around your eyes for a while, and the recommended lifestyle changes above haven't helped, you may want to see a dermatologist.
This is typically a chronic condition, though it can be managed with good skin care.
Poorly controlled blood glucose levels can lead to dehydration, which can dry out the skin. It's especially important that diabetics monitor their blood sugar, stay hydrated, and treat dry skin immediately because of the slower rate of healing and increased risk of infection that comes with diabetes.1
According to WebMD,1 having low levels of the thyroid hormone can result in reduced amount of oil produced by the skin. If you have this condition, you might notice rough and dry skin along with weight gain and fatigue. See your doctor if you've been having these symptoms over a long period of time.
Preventative Care for the Skin Around Your Eyes
Of course the best way to fix having dry skin around your eyes is to prevent it from happening in the first place! Here are some good general guidelines for skin health (some of these might look familiar from what you just read above).
- Be gentle to your eyes. Don't rub them, use harsh products on them, or scrub them with any kind of loofah or abrasive. Avoid rubbing your face with unclean hands or towels.
- Only use hypo-allergenic, fragrance-free, and gentle products on your face, including makeup, moisturizers, and facial cleansers.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Moisturize regularly, especially in the winter. Make sure you moisturize right after showering or washing your face and use a product that is gentle but also thick enough to actually keep the moisture in.
- Make sure you're using clean or sterilized brushes or makeup applicators. As much as possible, limit your exposure to makeup, including removing it before going to sleep.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet low in refined carbohydrates and sugar of any kind (including sugar from juice or fruit). Eat plenty of colorful root vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets), dark leafy greens (kale, swiss chard), and healthy fats (like those found in tree nuts and olive oil).
- Stay hydrated (drink roughly eight cups of water a day), and don't drink any caloric beverages (i.e. no sugar in your coffee, no juice, etc.)
Good Luck and Good Health!
Though not an emergency condition, dry skin can be chronic. Start off treating with lifestyle changes and see if the problem gets better.
However, if your skin condition is severe and accompanied by other symptoms, or if it does not improve, then you should consult your physician for a medical solution.
Wishing you good heath!
What Do You Think?
After reading this article, what do you think is the cause of the dry skin around your eyes?
- Medically reviewed by Dr. Rob Hicks. "7 Common Causes of Dry Skin." April 27, 2017. Boots WebMD. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Timmons, Jessica. Medically reviewed by Catherine Hannan, MD. "About Face: How to Handle Dry Skin Under Your Eyes." February 7, 2017. HealthLine. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Moore, Kristeen. Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI. "What Causes Dry Skin." October 19, 2016. HealthLine. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Silver, Natalie. Medically Reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI. "Everything You Should Know About Having Dry Skin on Your Face." January 17, 2017. HealthLine. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Taylor, Sarah, MD. Medically Reviewed by Kathryn Watson. "8 Home Remedies for Dry Skin." April 20, 2017. HealthLine. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)." July 26, 2014. Mayo Clinic. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD. "Eczema Home Treatment." September 2, 2015. WebMD. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Gotter, Ana and Tricia Kinman. Medically Reviewed by Sarah Taylor, MD. "Perioral Dermatitis." April 10, 2017. HealthLine. Accessed July 14, 2017.
- Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS. "What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?" March 21, 2016. WebMD. Accessed July 14, 2017.